From filmmaker Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes production company (producers of the The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Amityville Horror remakes) comes The Hitcher, an update of the 1986 film of the same name. I know many of you will roll your eyes with the mere mention of those remakes, and I don’t blame you. However, The Hitcher surprised me. It’s not absolute gold by any means, but I enjoyed it from start to finish.
The Hitcher tracks the terrifying trajectory of Grace Andrews (Sophia Bush) and Jim Halsey (Zachary Knighton), a collegiate couple who are tormented by the mysterious hitchhiker John Ryder, a.k.a. The Hitcher (Sean Bean). The young couple hit the road in a 1970 Oldsmobile 442, en route to spring break. But their pleasure trip soon turns into a waking nightmare. The initial encounters with Ryder are increasingly off-putting for Grace and Jim, and they bravely fight back when he ambushes them. But they are truly blindsided when he implicates them in a horrific slaying and continues to shadow them. The open road becomes a suspenseful, action-packed battleground of blood and metal as, in trying to elude not only Ryder but also New Mexico State Police Lieutenant Esteridge’s (Neal McDonough) officers, Grace and Jim must fight for their lives and face their fears head-on.
I was ready to write The Hitcher off as just another horrible remake of a cult classic, but something with this movie just grabbed me. It’s a great premise with likable lead characters. Add in a crazed hitchhiker tormenting these two young stars for the entire 84 minute running time, and you have the recipe for an enjoyable Saturday night movie.
The movie is not perfect, by any means, but I thought it was great. Bean, as the notorious hitchhiker John Ryder, was creepy as hell. He had a creepy Terminator vibe going on that made even some of the most ridiculous scenes in the movie work. The movie does get a bit over-the-top when the police become involved (and yes, they seem to be inept like most movie policemen), but Bean’s creepiness wipes that all away. I can’t remember that last time a villain’s mere onscreen presence felt so menacing. He’s pitch-perfect for the role, no question.
The movie is slickly shot by music video director Dave Meyers and cinematographer James Hawkinson, both making their big screen debut with this feature. The film looks stunning thanks to their efforts. I like how they approached the character’s seemingly continuous battle against the open roads. The landscape always seemed endless and deadly at times. Even with the flat road ahead of them, you could just never tell when something was going to jump out at them.
And yes, this is a remake, as I previously stated. However, this movie is arguably the best of the recent remakes. It’s an enjoyable movie with memorable performances and some great scares. I will admit that I jumped a few times, something other recent horror remakes have failed to do. And for those wondering, this remake makes more than a few changes from the original (especially the character who survives this horrible road trip).
So how is the DVD itself? This standard DVD release comes with excellent visuals but iffy audio. There were times when I found myself straining to hear what the characters were saying. But no worries, the loud scares, gun shots, and impressive car crashes sound spectacular. I guess the sound excels where it counts. While the video has absolutely amazing detail, there were times when edge enhancement was present. Nothing too worrisome or jarring, so it shouldn’t affect anyone’s viewing of the film.
The extras seem to be a satisfying collection for fans of the film. We get four featurettes (Road Kill: The Ultimate Car Crash, Fuel Your Fear: The Making of ‘The Hitcher’, Dead End and Chronicles of a Killer) and deleted scenes. The hyped up alternate ending that’s “Too Terrifying For Theatres” sadly . . . isn’t. It’s an interesting new take, and I kind of prefer it due to it’s somewhat startling brutality (not that I get off on that stuff, I just found it more emotional).
Overall, The Hitcher is better than it has any right to be. Given the wave of horror remakes, which won’t to be slowing down anytime soon, this is definitely one of the best I’ve seen. Its fun, the characters are likeable, the villain is excellent, and there are some genuine scares to be had. It’s a perfect rental for a Saturday night, no question. If you’re looking for a fast-paced movie with some jumps and thrills, The Hitcher comes Recommended.
The Hitcher is now available on DVD.